Beha’alotcha: Weekly Torah Portion (06/13)

Parsha Beha’alotcha / בהעלתך: Bamidbar/Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

D’var Torah

The word Beha’alotecha is translated a few different ways: “When You Go Up, When You Step Up (Rashi) or When You Raise Up [The Light].”

The Lord spoke to Moses and instructed him to have Aaron set up the seven lamps to shine upon the face of the seven branched menorah. (Bamidbar/Numbers 8:1-2).

Mystically, the seven branches of the Menorah are connected to the seven pillars of Wisdom, meaning Moses and Aaron always had to ensure the Light was shining upon Wisdom.

Wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars…

Proverbs 9:1

The theme of Light continues, when GD’s presence in the Israelite camp is identified as a hovering Cloud by day (a filtered, sheltering light) and a Fire (a hot, intense light) by night.

The Cloud is referred to as the “Cloud of Glory.” When the Cloud moved (along with the Fire), the tribe packed up the Mishkan (tabernacle) and followed the Divine Light. Have Mishkan, will travel.

On the day that the Mishkan was built the cloud covered it, even the tent of the testimony; and at evening there was upon the Mishkan the appearance of fire, until morning.

So it was always: the cloud covered it and there was an appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud moved from over the Tent, the children of Israel journeyed. And in the place where the cloud abode, the children of Israel encamped.

Whether it was two days, or a month, or a year that the cloud tarried upon the Mishkan, the children of Israel remained encamped and journeyed not; but when it was taken up, they journeyed.

Beha’alotecha

Whew! The ongoing upheaval interspersed with sheltering in place, must have filled them with a sense of endless waiting, uncertainty and anxiety.

In the year 2020, I think most of us can relate.

During their 40 years of juggling upheaval and sheltering in place, the ancient Israelites must have wondered — Is there really a destination or is it only about the journey? If the destination is indeed the Light at the end of the tunnel, when in the world will we get there? How long will we be stuck in the austere desert wilderness, until we reach the Promised Land?

Right now we are experiencing a Cloud of Uncertainty, while we long for a Cloud of Glory. Right now, we are wondering if and when we’ll ever be able to move forward again.

In this pain-filled space of a pandemic virus and pandemic racism, we don’t know if we’ll ever reach the “Promised Land” where equality reigns supreme. On this journey, our hearts ache to supplant the trauma and suffering of systemic bigotry, with systemic human dignity.

The transitions between movement (action) and sheltering in place must have felt like a painful state of limbo for the Israelites, imbued with a soul-deep yearning for balance, stability and safety — just as our current state of being feels to so many of us today.

Even though it was necessary for the Israelites to forge a new reality, it was not a task they all wanted to take on, work towards or accept.

We too, must embrace the necessity of forging a new reality, while dealing with mindsets that are in denial and hostile to the mere thought. De-nial is not just a river in Egypt.

Rabbinical exegesis tells us that the Clouds of Glory surrounding the Israelite camp fulfilled three primary purposes:

1) To protect the people from the searing sun.

2) To lead the way through the desert.

3) To assure a safe journey by flattening mountains and raising up valleys, and protecting them from poisonous serpents and scorpions in their path. (Metaphors for helping them overcome the obstacles they encountered from within and without)

We are facing mountains of obstacles right now and it’s hard as hell to move mountains.

We are facing deep valleys right now and it’s hard as hell to level the playing field.

We are struggling to climb out of the pit of poisonous enculturation right now and it’s hard as hell to find the antidote when the poison keeps spewing forth.

In this Parsha, Divinity/GD appeared as two very different and diametrical elements: Clouds and Fire.

Even at a standstill, waiting for the cloud to [up]lift, we must tap into our inner spiritual fire to help heal the toxic inequities poisoning our environment. Like Moses and Aaron, we must keep the lamplights shining on the face of Wisdom at all times.


©️ 2020 – All Rights Reserved — Chochmat Halev (Wisdom of the Heart) is my Ner Tamid (Eternal Light)

19 thoughts on “Beha’alotcha: Weekly Torah Portion (06/13)

  1. Phil Sutherland

    Great Parsha selection and metaphor for what we are facing. The key, to me, seems to be something in the past where they struggled and where we struggle today as well. Accepting God’s leading and being willing to trust. When our nation was founded, even considering those who founded it were imperfect human beings, there was a connection to God. We have drifted away from one nation, under God. The ancient Israelites due to their stubbornness and unwillingness to trust completely and stop grumbling (same as much of what we see today), as a generation, they had to roam until most had died off until those remaining were ones who had to put their entire trust in God to enter the promised land. It was Martin Luther King’s vision that one day, there would be a promised land, which he referred to in his speech, saying that he had been to the mountaintop, similar to Moses, and had seen the promised land. Like Moses, he said he may not get there himself, but, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. It may mean that the current rebellious people that live now, may not make it there, just as the Israelites had to wander in the desert, never seeing the promise fulfilled. I do hope that we get through the current struggles, but, right now it is very difficult to see the promised land. We need to pray diligently, that God open the eyes of the blind, and help them see so that we can move on to what God wants for us as a people.

    In addition to that, I was contemplating why I did not feel as anxious and apprehensive as others. I saw that I had been in a wandering state myself, as a young man in Vietnam fighting over there. It was very much a wilderness experience. I had little or no control and had to rely totally on God for my existence. Looking back, I could see God’s hand in His provision and keeping me sustained while going through that wilderness time. I think it mentally prepared me for a time such as we are facing now.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Kol hakavod (all the honor) for this comment! Many thanks for bringing in MLK’s quotes about the promised land. That is a truly great addition to this d’var. I feel like we are co-writing divrei Torah when I receive your comments. Thank you for your service as well and sharing how it prepared you for what we are facing today. Rav brachot! (Abundant blessings).🖖

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Luis

    I take away from this that Gd’s presence will take on a different appearance to us depending on our circumstances. Gd does not change, but our perspective does. And that was only in that particular point in history. Are there obvious ways (the way a pillar of fire or cloud are striking and obvious) to experience that same presence in this transformative time? This reminds me too look for it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Many thanks for your reflections on the dvar! I really love your take on Gd’s presence changing depending on our circumstances. I think of Gd/Divinity as in the eye of the beholder. Could be higher consciousness, acts of loving-kindness, the universal life force or simply the divinity of our humanity. There are so many different names for Gd/Divinity in Hebrew — Water, The Place, The Infinite, even one that derives from Womb as the root word. (I think I will do a post on that).

      Good question on the ways we can seek out and find the Divine during this transformative (and scary) time. I’m looking for Gd (the divine it factor), wherever I can find it — in my furbaby, in mother nature, in a few kind words, in the love of friends. Rav Brachot!🖖

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Phil Sutherland

      Luis: Love that comment. The Sages argued many times over the application of directions in the Torah, and we know that it was because people at different points in time, experience differences. I think that we have to be willing to listen to the direction that God would take us, and realize that it might be a totally different approach than they did in previous times. The Israelites in the desert wanted to do things as they had instead of following the new leading and as result, got stuck in the desert experience. I think in order to get us out of these wilderness times we really have to reflect upon what God would have us do now that is different than we did in the past. That may well mean a change in attitude, behavior, etc. Good post!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Reppy

    Very insightful and timely. I really appreciated the way you connected the past with what is happening in our world today! That’s one of your many gifts! Thank you so much. 💕♥️💕♥️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yaffa N

    Have Mishkan will travel is very clever! It reminds me of the days when I watched “Have Gun Will Travel”, and it helps me relate to a world that was more pragmatic. I feel like carrying the Mishkan and following the commandments was very trying on the Jewish people. It was a brilliant comparison to them wandering in the desert to our sheltering in place. The comparison is very apropos to what we are experiencing now. Only and you and your cleverness could help me relate to the bible and ancient times when it seemed so long ago and obsolete. Your Midrash illuminates the fact that there are similarities between us now and us then. It really helps me to focus on the similarities as opposed to the differences. You are really enhancing my life with your positive views and validations of what we endure now because of the Pandemic. I don’t feel as alone as I did earlier because of your thoughtful commentary. I feel like there is hope for “Ha Makon”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Many thanks for your beautiful comment!! I love the reference to Have Gun Will Travel!

      Oy veyismer. Schlepping that Mishkan around must have been really onerous. We all know how hard it is to move, especially in a hurry and they never knew when they would be uprooted again. Sheltering in place for an indefinite period, while knowing it was only transient, sounds brutal. Much gratitude to you for your thoughtful reflections! I love them! 💕💕💕

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous

    I had a disconnect with the extreme Orthodox Jews for most of my life. When I read about the zealots I cringed. For the first time, I feel a contentedness with another Jewish woman who could dissect the Tanach and call it out. I could not stand the dogma growing up. Sometimes, certain Mitzvot are a hindrance as opposed to an asset. I needed someone to concur with this. Thanks, for all your academic research , hard work, and being on my side.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Phil Sutherland

      What a great commentary! I could not agree more. As I commented earlier, many Orthodox and conservative Shuls are stuck in the past. When we were studying in Melton, one of the things mentioned then and in other studies, was that the sages often disagreed with the application of some rules for the time in which they existed. That, in my humble opinion, is because things vary for the time in which you live. I feel that instead of being stuck in an earlier century, that there needs to be interpretation of God’s word for the time in which it is to be applied. It was my feeling that the main reason that the Israelites were stuck in the desert, was because God was trying to lead them to a new land and new life, and they were stuck in the previous mode. I really believe if we are to survive as Jews and have God lead us, we must listen and apply His teachings to our current circumstances. That means revising our view on clothing, driving, and many of the things that we do. The Reformed Movement has caught on to this idea and as a result, most of the Reformed Shuls are full on Shabbat with a whole range of people. I really hope that at some point this whole idea is rethought. Otherwise, we will see more and more being discouraged and falling away. Just my opinion!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Shaina

    I wrote Ha Makom.(not Hamakon) Auto correct did it again. I like what Rabbi Nahman said about praying in the mountains. That is my “Ha Makom”. Then I do not have to carry a heavy Miskan and tweek my back.

    Like

  7. Hi: Just introducing myself. I found your blog through Christopher’s blogsite. I call myself a Cultural Catholic, having left the institutional church because of the child abuse coverups. Does the old testament differ vastly in approach from the Torah? My simplistic view on this is the Israelites clung to their GD in captivity as a source of hope. With their new won freedom, wandering in the desert they started to argue, worship false idols and forget about GD. They had to be cleansed for forty years before reaching the promised land. A whole new generation was born in their wandering. You so rightly proclaim that we must tap into our inner spiritual fire and be voices of reason in these turbulent times. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      I’m so glad you found me and stopped by for a visit. Some of the old testament Hebrew to English translations don’t capture the full meaning and depth of the Hebrew text. Some translations are just outright incorrect.

      Many thanks for reading, joining the conversation and embarking on this journey with me! I concur with your reflections and enjoyed reading them. Looking forward to more.

      Is there any Jewish topic in particular you’d like me to write about?

      Like

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